Shuttle launch delayed again by bad weather

August 02, 1991|By Orlando Sentinel

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A faulty valve switch and threatening thunderclouds forced NASA yesterday to postpone the liftoff of the shuttle Atlantis again, this time for 24 hours.

More equipment trouble struck last night. The latest problem hit electronics gear in the crew cabin.

Launch is now set for 11:02 this morning, although controllers can send Atlantis on its way as late as 3:06 p.m., or about five hours after the astronauts board the shuttle, whichever comes first.

The electrical problem could further delay the launch, they said.

"It could very well go either way," said Karl Kristofferson, NASA spokesman.

NASA had to decide whether to proceed with the late morning launch by the start of fueling at 2:42 a.m.

Air Force weather forecasters predict a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather at 11:02 and an 80 percent chance by 3:06.

Liftoff yesterday had been scheduled for 11:01 a.m. but was postponed while engineers tested a valve that controls air pressure in the crew cabin.

The switch on the valve did not indicate that the valve had properly closed, but the half-hour test showed that the valve had indeed shut.

By then, however, crosswinds at Kennedy Space Center's runway -- where Atlantis would return if an emergency landing was required right after liftoff -- were above the 17 mph mark, a violation of launch rules.

A few minutes later, shuttle weather officers predicted that a line of thunderclouds to the west would soon move close to the launch pad, another violation of launch rules.

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